Friday, March 5, 2010

Author Behaving Badly

I am posting this rather long author/agent correspondence to share what I feel is an example of an author behaving badly, but thinking he has been wronged.

What is wrong with this behavior, you may ask? He's being polite. But he's not. He's being entitled polite. He seems to have forgotten that he has asked the L. Perkins Agency (and Sandy Lu has agreed) to read and evaluate his manuscript in our free time. Sandy has repeatedly told him she is interested and that she is very busy, but he seems to feel that that will change if he is persistent enough. If this kind of correspondence took place with every submission, we would never get any work done.

Then the bad behavior really kicks in. When he doesn't get yet another assurance that she is still interested and is still very busy, he writes to her boss (me), hoping that I will go in and chastise her enough to jump his book to the top of the pile.

However, I do hear him, and respond to him right away. It's very late and after business hours, which, of course, is when agents do all their reading. I make it very clear to him that he is one of many, and needs to wait his turn like everyone else. His feathers are ruffled, and he pulls his book.

I can't imagine what he thought he had gained from that exchange.

Sandy Lu commented. "There are only two things I want to add. First of all, he only checked status with me once, which I responded to within a few days. I have no records of him every checking in with me again, so I was shocked when he contacted you claiming that I ignored his status check. Of course, he may have left a phone message instead the second time, which I just deleted without responding. I should address this issue too - that it is never okay to check status by phone. "


Lori and Sandy,

Please feel free to pull my ms from your pile, I simply requested a status update of which I feel two weeks is sufficient time to reply with "still very busy please continue to hold on."
I have been waiting for seven months if you check the dates.
I am very glad to see your true attitude before representation.
Please feel free not to contact me further.
P

--- On Fri, 3/5/10, L Perkins wrote:


She obviously hasn't read it yet.

You do realize that all ms. reading is done after hours and that it takes 6 hours to read a 300 page ms.?

That she has probably requested about 100 300 page ms.? That we get 30,000 queries a year?

You are welcome to pull your ms. from the pile or wait your turn.

Lori Perkins,
Author of THE INSIDER'S GUIDE
TO GETTING AN AGENT (Writer Digest Books)
L. Perkins Agency
(718) 543-5344
agentinthemiddle.blogspot.com
visit ravenousromance.com

Twitter:LoriPerkinsRR

--- On Thu, 3/4/10, P wrote:

Dear Ms. Perkins,

I am curious as to the status of consideration of my work CXXXX of the Fxxxxx. I originally contact you on July 23, 2009, and you referred the work to Ms. Lu. I have received one update since at my request. My latest attempt has gone un-answered though, and I am now seeking your assistance. Your help in this matter is greatly appreciated. For your convenience I have put all correspondence in line from oldest to newest.

Thank you for your time,

P

**********

Query Thursday, July 23, 2009 2:30 AM
From:"P

To:lperkinsagency@yahoo.com

Dear Ms. Perkins,


Begins with 3 paragraph description of a dark fantasy novel.....


This is my fantasy novel, "CXXXX of the FXXX," containing 85873 words and based in both Greek mythology and in the Judao-Christian belief system. In keeping a potentially more religious audience in mind during the writing process, I have kept the book relatively free of objectionable material and language. Some may argue with some of my Biblical interpretations, such as portraying God equally as both female and male. I feel that this work would stand alone on the store shelves, as to my knowledge there is no other author that has used my unique take on mythology or on fallen angels.

As for myself, I have been a life long reader, to the point of reading Tolstoy and Tolkien at a rather young age. I have taken the required college level English and composition classes, as well as public speaking, drama, and Shakespeare. I have been told that my literary voice is very much like Charlaine Harris, and in some work reminiscent of Anne Rice. Some of my favorite authors are J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Douglas Adams, Agatha Christie, and Anne Rice. I am open to all forms of publication from traditional to electronic.

If you are interested, please drop me a line. I can be reached at:

P

I look forward to working with you on this project and am anxiously awaiting your response.

Yours truly,

P


*********
Fw: Query Thursday, August 13, 2009 6:26 PM
From:"Sandy Lu"



Dear P:

Thank you for sending us a query letter describing your novel. My name is Sandy Lu, and I am an associate agent at L Perkins Agency. I would like to take a look at sample chapters (the first 50 pages) of your manuscript.

Please email your submission as a Word document attachment, including your bio and a two-page synopsis (all in one document). Please make sure your file name contains your manuscript title and not simply “requested material” or “sample chapters”, so I can locate your manuscript easily among all the other submissions I receive every day. Put “Requested Material” in the subject headline, as well as your full name and the title of your book. Make sure your manuscript is in Times New Roman font size 12, double space, with 1” margin all around, add page I.D. (your last name and title of your novel) on the upper-left corner and page number on the upper-right corner of each page (both in font size 10).

Kindly allow me at least 10 weeks for a reply before contacting me to inquire about your manuscript's status (although I will try to respond sooner).

I look forward to receiving your submission.

Sincerely,

Sandy Lu
Associate Agent
L. Perkins Agency


--- On Sun, 8/9/09, L Perkins wrote:


From: L Perkins
Subject: Fw: Query
To: "Sandy Lu"
Date: Sunday, August 9, 2009, 4:02 PM

Lori Perkins,
Author of THE INSIDER GUIDE
TO GETTING AN AGENT (Writer Digest Books)
L. Perkins Agency
(718) 543-5344
agentinthemiddle.blogspot.com
visit ravenousromance.com

**********


Requested Material-P Friday, August 14, 2009 2:41 AM
To:sandy@lperkinsagency.com
Message contains attachments
1 File (150KB)

Dear Ms. Lu,

Thank you for taking an interest in my work. Attached are the materials you requested; however, being new to this I was not sure if you wanted the first 50 pages as I wrote them in single space or the first 50 as double space. I chose the later, if this is insufficient for your needs please let me know, and I will gladly send more. On that pretext, if you desire a more complete synopsis, again please let me know. It was very difficult to paraphrase the story down after spending two years researching through Bulfinch, Edith Hamilton, Dante and the Bible.

Again, I would like to thank you for your consideration of my work, and I hope to be working with you in the near future.

Sincerly,
P
***********


Status: Cxxxxx of the Fxxxx Tuesday, November 3, 2009 3:14 PM
From:"P
To:"Sandy Lu"

Dear Ms. Lu,
I am curious as to the status of your work with my book CXXXX of the Fxxxxx. By my calculations it has been eleven weeks and I am sure you know how anticipation is, I can also understand how work can pile up around ones self, so if you or an assistant could just drop me a line I would appreciate it.
Thanks,
P

************


Re: Status: Cxxx of the Fxxx Thursday, November 12, 2009 8:01 PM
From:"Sandy Lu"

To:P
I am behind in my submission review and won't get to anything sent in August until late December. Thank you for your patience.

Sandy Lu
Associate Agent
L. Perkins Agency
5800 Arlington Avenue
Riverdale, NY 10471
Tel: (718)710-3662
E-mail: sandy@lperkinsagency.com

*************


Status: Cxxxxx of the Fxxxx Tuesday, February 16, 2010 2:55 AM
From:"P
To:sandy@lperkinsagency.com

Dear Ms. Lu,

I am once again checking in for a status update about my book Cxxxx of the Fxxxx. On November the twelfth, you had stated you were behind in your submission work and would not be getting to your August submissions until late December. So, I am now wondering how you are doing?

Again, I can understand how things can pile up, and I am sure you can understand how I can get antsy with anticipation as I await your reply. If you or an assistant could please drop me a line I would greatly appreciate the effort.

Thank you for all your time and trouble,

P

31 comments:

Xuxana said...

When I start submitting my ms to agents, I'm just going to leave it. Sometimes writers don't hear back from agents at all, ever. Not much point in chasing up ms submissions. This writer should be flattered you even asked to see some of his work.

Liz said...

Even if he is behaving badly, I think you are behaving just as badly for posting his emails. I don't think I will be reading this blog anymore, sorry.

Ravenous Romance said...

Sorry, Liz, I obviously disagree. How are authors to learn what bad behavior is if no one ever tells them? This is definitely a case of showing and not just telling. And I went out of my way to mask his identity.

Sayuri said...

Regardless of whether or not identies were masked, I find the fact that you are publishing work emails on a public blog, unprofessional to say the least.

I'm pretty sure that everyone involved were working under the assumption that they were confidential. I don't think I'd want an agent who did that.

I also don't think it's out of order to ask for an update. Even if the update is 'I have no update'.

Elizabeth said...

I'm afraid I agree with Liz. He shouldn't have emailed you, but posting private correspondence doesn't feel right.

BTW you missed one instance of the title of his book when you redacted it.

Anonymous said...

Like the writer highlighted in this post I experience the same thing with Ms. Lu. Except 12 months went by and there were 6 or 7 attempts by me to get some feedback on my submission...with absolutely no reply or acknowledgment.

I just gave up.

p.s. If I were this writer I'd be humiliated by my private emails being put on such a public display, such a publicly ridiculing display. I say this is really wrong on many levels.

Ravenous Romance said...

Sayuri, while he may feel he has a right to send a "what's happening," email, once you've been told "nothing's happening," that's enough. It's the same for editors and agents. Any agent that bugs an editor too many times, will get their ms. returned unread. I suppose this is why writers NEED agents, because they don't seem to understand and respect the workload.

And he didn't just ask for an update. He thought he was being very clever in going to Sandy's boss.

Anonymous said...

You both sound like pretentious stinkypots.

Sayuri said...

I understand your point about him going outside the 'chain' but you could have said that all without publishing private work emails.

If you don't hold yourself to any kind of ethical or professional standard, I find it hypocritical that you expect it from others.

Ravenous Romance said...

And nothing is "private" on the internet. I see no difference between my posting this (and removing the identity of the author) and authors posting their correspondence with me or Sandy Lu on various writing blogs and message boards. This is how this business works.

Many writers whine about how they get no response, and don't know why. Then when they are told why, they whine about that.

There are so many people writing today that only those who understand and respect the workload of the professionals in the field are going to attract them.

Bryan said...

I would agree that in a field like this, and knowing you write a blog like this, the author should expect the possibility of his email being posted with personal information redacted.

I would also agree that it could come off as tactless to escalate to Sandy's boss, but if he was afraid that previous email or correspondence had been lost in the ether, it would make sense that he attempted to reach out to someone else at the same company who he might reach. This is standard form in most businesses.

Lastly, I would agree that it was poor form for him to retract his manuscript in the way he did, except that when there are exclusivity agreements and he's waiting on your response before he can send fifty pages to another interested agent.

What I think you're missing, though, is that your business does not operate in any way like the rest of the business world. The way he behaved in his email is perfectly appropriate in a normal business environment, and if he were my employee and this was a normal business agreement, I would say he was being overly polite. Clearly your business -is- different, and I don't mean to demean it, but since every agent seems to have their own correspondence rules, it might not be a terrible idea to have a form you can copy and paste into reply emails (as you have for your request for the first 50 pages) when an author is requesting an update - something immediate he can look at right in the email and know what to expect and what you expect of him.

Agents are valuable creatures, and authors need you dearly, but please don't forget that most of us still operate in a totally different world with a different set of expectations (one shared by 99% of the rest of the business world), and may need a little grace, which is seems, in this correspondence, y'all had in short supply.

I'm sure there are plenty of counter examples of when y'all have been long-suffering saints (such as the long nights spent reading manuscripts), but the way this was posted as if it was clear indication that he was in the wrong and y'all were the ones wronged would make me rethink sending your agency a query.

Dana Fredsti said...

Without invalidating anyone else's personal experience, I'd like to say that my experience with Sandra Lu has been very positive. She contacted me to let me know she was behind on her submission reading. As a writer behind on her own deadlines, I totally understand being snowballed with work and have no complaints with her responsiveness.

Ravenous Romance said...

I posted all the correspondence so no one could say I took anything out of context.

Bryan, I find it amazing that I tell writers we get 30,000 query letters a year and I took the time to tell this guy that Sandy had 100 300 page ms. to read (and each one took 6 non-working hours to read) and he still had the nerve to say, so what about me?

And, no, this is about supply and demand, which is pretty basic business. I would sell no books if I took the time to email every writer who wanted to know "what's happening," when what's happening is obviously, "I haven't read it yet" and then "I still haven't read it."

I am posting this as a service to writers and agents, who are tired of this behavior of writer entitlement. Believe me.

Anonymous said...

Reading this man's first query, I'm a little surprised you wanted to take a look in the first place. That said, I see no disclosure of who this person is and believe your willingness to reveal this information is only your attempt to give writers a bit of insight into the whole process.

I do wonder, still, how you've managed to get so far behind that it was this long before you responded to this man. I don't blame him for being upset, but the right thing for him to have done was to have pulled his query and moved on.

Sofie Bird said...

I agree with the others that it seems highly unprofessional of you to publish emails in this manner. Your post was quite informative and instructive without them. All this does is reflect poorly on you, both because you actually posted them without his permission, and because it displays your very rude reply to his polite request for information.

Yes, you are very busy. Businesses in the real world become exceptionally busy, too, and yet they don't let their customer service suffer as a result. You just told a potential client (who had been, by typical business standards, extremely patient and polite) to either shut up or leave - something that would likely result in dismissal in any other industry. Yes, the agent industry may be 'special', but poor business practice still tarnishes your reputation.

You could just have easily copy-pasted a form "We are very busy and appreciate your patience, please understand the more you ask us, the longer the process will take" response, if this is such a problem for you. It would have taken less time than what you did write, educated the author about his actions, and kept him happy.

I'm not surprised he pulled his manuscript. How is he (or any other potential client) to know that that's not the attitude you're going to take with publishers when trying to sell his book? No matter how you normally seem on your blog, that one example of actual correspondence is going to hold far more weight.

sexywriter said...

I can understand his frustration at one level, but on the other hand, I know that this business takes forever. I have agented submissions sitting with editors for months and months on end with no reply. That's just the way it is. It sucks, but it's the way it is. People can only read so much in their spare time.

Lisa Lane said...

I don't have anything to add that hasn't already been said here ... except that this guy's submission holds an uncanny resemblance to my speculative sci-fi novel and screenplay, MYTHS OF GODS. I always cringe when I find out that other people are writing stories that resemble works I've been querying for years. I know that there are only so many ideas out there, but it's still disturbing.

Xuxana said...

Someone once referred me to the agents listed on her blog and said that there are always agents looking for their next meal ticket.

That's what publishing is people: a business. A literary agent isn't going to take on your ms if they don't think it's publishible, because they won't make money from it.

Like I said, when I start submitting my ms I'm going to be sending it with a professional attitude. I won't even be surprised if I never hear back from some of them. That's the way this biz works. Which can seem brutal, but writers will just have to deal with it.

Harassing an agent for feedback or updates in such a hostile manner is a complete no-no.

Rebecca Leigh said...

Wow! The reaction to this post is amazing. I only have a few things to add.

1. I have never assumed that my email correspondence with an agent is confidential, especially since at the query stage there is no relationship to keep confidental.

2. I have seen (and myself posted) email answers from agents on forums where the same is done for the benefit of other writers who are curious about what this biz is like. That takes me back to number 1 and the assumption that such email correspondence is not intended to be confidential.

3. I have a partial with Sandy Lu. I asked her for an update once and she quickly and politely let me know how she was doing. I thought that it was professional and appreciated it. I work under the assumption that if an agent is interested, they will let you know. If not, you may not hear back. From what I've seen, that's the way it is. And given how busy agents are, that is fine with me.

I'm just thankful that occasionally an agent is interested in reading more. We should all be!

Xuxana said...

You make a good point there, Rebecca. About writers posting emails from agents. Why shouldn't it be allowed to go the other way around? If writers can post agents responses and gripe about them, then agents can post writer's emails. Besides, the personal details were left out of this post.

I agree, we should be grateful when agents provide feedback.

Anonymous said...

I've seen a thread about Sandra Lu on Absolute Write: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=28508

If you read through the thread, there's quite a few negative comments about the amount of time and lack of updates with authors who have submitted to her.

I believe that this many months to read a full sub should be the exception, not the rule. However, some agents are slower than others.

Despite this, your agency's defensive posture about a status check is ridiculous, unprofessional, and I hope writers get the hint and stay away from you.

Ravenous Romance said...

Another agent addresses some of this author entitlement and/or arrogance.

http://tiny.cc/YmCk0

But I'm sure you'll write to me anonymously and tell me you don't see it that way.

Marisa Iozzi Corvisiero said...

I just read the entire blog and comments. The short answer is that it is not illegal for three reasons. First and foremost, all posted correspondence has been properly redacted in a way that the author's identity is in no way revealed, unless he is dumb enough to come forth and make it known that it was his. Therefore, it can not be construed as slanderous. Second, there is no such thing as agent client privilege, only moral rules that govern what is proper and what is not. However, here such relationship is yet to be established. And third, there is no expectation of privacy when querying agents because it is a given that the query and the ms will be read by the agent, her team and then some. Furthermore, given the nature of our industry and the fact that you have a blog and all other extenuating circumstances which increase the likely hood that you will share your experiences with authors, there is no expectation of privacy.

Having said that, it appears that some may find it distasteful, petty, antagonistic and pretentious. I think that the readers of your blog would perhaps benefit more from a recap of the events in way of pointers and advice on what not to do, instead of being subjected to the entirety of the discord.

Jeanne Tomlin said...

More of the usual in the way some agents feel free to humiliate writers publicly. Fortunately, most agents don't behave like this but the few who do give the profession a black eye.

This is supposed to be a professional relationship. Publishing emails is not professional behavior on your part, far worse than anything he did.

And you aren't doing anyone a favor by reading manuscripts. You are looking for something to sell. Doing it after business hours does not equate to doing it "in your spare time". It's known as working overtime. People do it routinely in all kinds of professions. If Ms. Lu didn't think it was worth reading in a timely manner, she shouldn't have requested it.

And, no. Seven months is not a timely manner.

Sorry, but you get no sympathy for your behavior. You and your agency were the ones in the wrong. (and I see my own agent over there cringing at my being outspoken)

Professional courtesy. It has a meaning. You might look it up.

Ravenous Romance said...

This is the last comment I will be making on this, although I will write about it again in the future for a separate post. But feel free to add your comments.

You all act like I am some unknown agent who hung her singe out the door yesterday. I have been doing this for 22 years, I've had 8 books on the NYT best seller list, and anyone who bothers to do the slightest bit of research will know that my client list is full. You should also know that I recently started a publishing company (and agreed to continue as an agent) so I am working 16 hours a day. This publishing company has launched at least 100 new writers' careers, which is far more writer-friendly than anything an agent could do for you (I sold 19 first novels my first year as an agent).

I believe in mentoring, so I have taken a number of new agents under my wing. That too is time consuming, but I believe that anyone who is willing to take thousands of hits of rejection on someone else's behalf, is worth mentoring.

When writers treat me and my agency like some run of the mill agency, I get pissed. And anyone who doesn't understand how busy (and generous) I am (and by extension how busy my associates are), should NOT be sending me/us queries. I don't have time for whining, and nether do my agents.

Someone said that the next writer could be the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, but I m not doing this for the money (I have enough clients to never take on a new writer again). I believe in books and writers and readers. If Stephen King or J.K. Rowling were obnoxious, I would gladly have them go to another agent. There are a number of big time authors who are no longer published, and that is one of the reasons why.

Calling what you think is the boss is a rude, selfish thing to do. The purpose of this blog post was to show you in no uncertain terms that you should not do it (with me, or any other agency). But feel free to do what you feel entitled to do.

ryan field said...

I love ya, Lori :)

And I know how hard you work!!

florkincaid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca T. Little said...

I read over this and found myself holding my sides and disturbing library patrons with my gales of laughter. I simply read the disguised book title in question phonetically (think Dr. Seuss, Fox in Socks). Thank you for an inadvertent Wednesday morning laugh! And, by the by, I feel you are in the right.

Rebecca

Jen said...

While it sucks to have a ms out for 7 months ...by all accounts Lori put her professional ass and reputation on the line while standing up for an overworked employee who just suffered a death in the family. In my book that makes her a pretty loyal employer, so can you imagine what kind of agent that would be?

Kourtnie McKenzie said...

I know you're getting a lot of mixed opinions for posting this up, but I just wanted to say thank you.

You're trying to do a favor for agents, writers, and everyone else involved by educating.

I'm continually appreciative of all agent blogs, especially in posts like this that approach sensitive topics and give a new perspective on the whole process.

Kimberly Steele said...

The author whose email you published sounds like a total entitled narcissist brat. What he needs to do is try his antics when pitching an album to ANY PERSON in the music industry and then he can feel what it is to be truly ignored.

As for the authors who are kvetching about that email being somehow inappropriate, grow the hell up and do something worthwhile.